Project summary

Most migrants rely on the services of some form of migration intermediary to organise different stages of their migration. They do so because international mobility and migration involve navigating increasingly complex border and mobility regimes. Despite growing evidence that migration intermediaries play a crucial role in giving shape to international mobility and migration, there is a considerable lack of knowledge about these actors. Specifically, there is the need to shed new light on the complex interplay between labour mobility regimes and migration intermediaries. This project addresses this gap through comparative analysis of migration intermediaries in three sectors of the labour market. They are: (1) multinational corporations and immigration service providers, which channel highly skilled labour to Sweden’s information technology sector, (2) Chinese recruitment agencies and social networks, which organise the migration of restaurant workers to Sweden, and (3) Thai staffing agencies, which recruit Thai rice farmers and act as their employers while they work in Sweden’s wild berry industry on a seasonal basis. This project aims to contribute much needed knowledge about the relationship between migration intermediaries and mobility regimes that extends beyond the notion that migration intermediaries simply manipulate labour mobility regimes by identifying weaknesses in the system, exploiting regulatory loopholes, getting around red tape and so forth. Instead, this research shows how the activities of migration intermediaries, directly or indirectly, also contribute towards shaping and reshaping the very policy space in which they operate.


Linn Axelsson (PI, Stockholm University), Charlotta Hedberg (Umeå University), Qian Zhang (Stockholm University)

Research assistants: Irma Olofsson (Umeå University), Peter van Eerbeek (Umeå University), Nils Pettersson (Stockholm University)


  • Axelsson, Linn, Charlotta Hedberg, Nils Pettersson and Qian Zhang (2021) Re-visiting the 'black box' of migration: State-intermediary co-production of regulatory spaces of labour migration. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies,

  • Hedberg, Charlotta and Irma Olofsson (2021) Negotiating the Wild West: Variegated neoliberalisation of the Swedish labour migration regime and the wild berry migration industry. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space,

  • Axelsson, Linn and Nils Pettersson (2021) Spatial shifts in migration governance: Public-private alliances in Swedish immigration administration. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space 39(7): 1529-1546.

  • van Eerbeek, Peter and Charlotta Hedberg (2021) Chameleon brokers: A translocal take on migration industries in the Thai-Swedish wild berry business. Migration Studies.
  • Zhang, Qian and Linn Axelsson (2021) Channelling through bureaucracy: How migration intermediaries and state actors (re)shape Chinese migration to the Swedish restaurant industry. Geoforum 123: 14-22.


  • Axelsson, Linn and Nils Pettersson (2019), Chasing time: The role of intermediaries in the governance of highly skilled migration. 16th Annual IMISCOE Conference, Malmö University, 26-28 June 2019.
  • Hedberg, Charlotta (2019), Transnational seasonal labour migration: Simultaneity and multi-sitedness in the wild berry industry. 16th Annual IMISCOE Conference, Malmö University, 26-28 June 2019.


Linn Axelsson: